Have you seen a Monarch caterpillar or butterfly recently? They enjoy eating milkweed, so look out for them on those plants. Kara Bonsack of UConn Extension caught this series from caterpillar to butterfly at our Extension office in Haddam, in case you don’t see one in person.
A map that Extension educator Emily Wilson created last year made it into the most recent Esri Map Book. The Map Book is a hard copy, glossy publication (complete with a textured cover) that Esri publishes every year and distributes to attendees of the Esri International User Conference in San Diego, that had an attendance of over 19,000 people this year. Here is the link to the online map book https://www.esri.com/en-us/esri-map-book/maps#/list and this is the direct link to the UConn map created by Emily Wilson: https://www.esri.com/en-us/esri-map-book/maps#/details/14/1. It is exciting that Emily’s map was selected, and is excellent exposure for UConn and the work that we do.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a disease caused by a virus that mosquitos transmit. The name of the disease is misleading in that this virus can infect and cause disease in humans and a wide variety of animal species, including birds as well as horses and other equids. Horses that have not been vaccinated for EEE die within days of being infected as there is no treatment. There is an effective equine vaccine for EEE, however not for other species. Researchers and veterinarians at UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) encourage equine owners to consider vaccinating their animals, and other animal owners to implement measures to reduce mosquito habitats and thereby potential contact with mosquitos.
Mosquitos that feed on infected wild birds transmit EEE to horses and humans. Once infected, the virus attacks the central nervous system of the host. For horses, disease signs usually appear within five days and the clinical signs include fever, a dull or sleepy appearance, muscle twitches, and a weak staggering gait. Fatality in horses is 90% or higher as horses often go down and are unable to stand again, and those that do survive may have permanent brain damage.
EEE is transmitted by two main types of mosquito vectors; the primary vector and the bridging vector.Culiseta melanura, the primary vector which feeds almost exclusively on birds, serves to amplify and maintain the virus within wild bird populations. Other mosquito species, which indiscriminatingly feed on birds, horses, and humans, serve as the bridging vector capable of transmitting EEE from wildlife to horses and humans.
With the location of horse barns and pastures in rural areas the animals have increased exposure to mosquitos. Horses cannot pass EEE to humans, or to other horses, and are therefore referred to as a dead-end host. If an infected mosquito bites a human, that person can be infected and may develop disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, illness in humans due to EEE is rare, but when disease develops, it is serious.
Proactive steps can be taken to prevent EEE virus infection in humans and horses. A vaccine is available for horses, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating annually for EEE. Mosquito control techniques include eliminating standing water, cleaning water troughs weekly, avoiding mosquito-infested areas, and using insect repellent.
CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.
LSU Ag Center Research and Extension: http://www.lmca.us/PDF/pub2834eee.pdf
New Haven – One hundred pounds of litter – everything from deflated Mylar balloons and monofilament fishing line to plastic bottles, Styrofoam cups, straws, cigarette butts and lots of bottle caps — filled the buckets and reusable bags of 35 volunteers Thursday at Lighthouse Point Park as they helped launch a campaign to keep plastic trash out of Long Island Sound.
“My husband and I grew up down here, so we just wanted to come and help out,” said Lisa Ratti, who came with her husband Salvatore and their daughters Kylie, 13, Courtney, 11, and Rosalie, 4, from their home in Newington to work with the other volunteers in picking up trash.
The two-hour cleanup on a bright, windy August day at the popular city beach and picnic area was the start of this year’s “Don’t Trash Long Island Sound – Break the Single-Use Plastic Habit” campaign sponsored by the Long Island Sound Study, Connecticut Sea Grant and Mystic Aquarium. Now in its third year, the campaign this year expanded with four groups joining in the kick-off event – The Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound; Audubon Connecticut; The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut chapter; and SoundWaters, which sponsored cleanups at the same time at two Stamford parks.
Article by Judy Benson
Dr. Jason Henderson, Associate Professor of Turfgrass and Soil Sciences at University of Connecticut, is the lead investigator of an ongoing, multiple year research project that has been evaluating conventional, organic, and pesticide-free management systems for athletic fields and home lawns. Other investigators involved with the project include Vickie Wallace, John Inguagiato, Karl Guillard, Steve Rackliffe, and Tom Morris. To date, two graduate students have completed research studies while collecting data on this project.
Dr. Henderson has been a champion of research that supports environmentally sound turf care practices. Besides collecting data on the various management regimes, Dr. Henderson and his team of collaborators set out to develop a smartphone app, FertAdvisor, that assists users in calculating the amount of lawn fertilizer required to properly fertilize turfgrass areas.
FertAdvisor is designed to provide users with a comprehensive tool that will help ensure accurate applications of fertilizer and reduce misapplications that can potentially damage turfgrass, waste fertilizer and/or pose environmental risk. The app has recommendations about application techniques, accurate calibration, fertilizer timing, and nitrogen source selection. Built-in calculators within the app help determine how much fertilizer will be needed to properly fertilize turfgrass areas, streamlining calibration calculations and calculating the amount of nitrogen, phosphate and potash that will be applied to the area based on the fertilizer selected.
Animations and videos guide turfgrass enthusiasts on how to take a soil sample, properly apply fertilizer using both drop and rotary spreaders, calibrate a fertilizer spreader, and calculate lawn surface area. Ten tips and tricks for managing cool-season lawns are also provided, in order to help homeowners make the right decisions for a healthy lawn.
Submitted by Vickie Wallace and Jason Henderson
Ten Tips for the August Gardener
- Fertilize perennials with a 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 product to encourage continued blooming.
- Scout for C-shaped notches on the edges of the leaves of your perennials such as dahlias, roses, basil or coleus that are caused by Asiatic beetle feeding.
- Houseplants can dry out quicker in the heat and extra sunlight of summer. Check them frequently to evaluate their moisture needs.
- Keep an eye out for insect, slug, and snail damage throughout the garden. Use the controls in our fact sheet Snails and Slugs.
- Remove old plants that have stopped producing to eliminate a shelter for insects and disease organisms. Replant sites with chard, quick maturing beans or cucumbers, leafy greens etc.
- Even though tomatoes continue to ripen after picking, fruits develop greatest flavor when allowed to ripen on plants. The exception is cherry tomatoes since many varieties are prone to splitting. Pick any almost ripe ones before a heavy rain.
- Pick up, bag, and trash (do not compost) any dropped apples that show signs of apple maggot.
- Think about what fruits trees you might like to add to your yard this fall. Some suggestions for native plants may be found at Trees and Shrubs: Suggested Native Species for Pollinators.
- Reseeding the lawn in late August gives the new grass two growing periods (fall and spring) before the heat of summer. Be sure to keep the seed moist until germination.
- Fruiting plants such as winterberry, holly, and firethorn need regular watering during dry spells to ensure that berries mature and don’t drop off.
Originally published by UConn Today on July 29, 2019
Cari and Ken Donaldson had always wanted to farm. After finding a property in Willington, they established Ghost Fawn Homestead five years ago. Today, gardens and vegetable beds dot the hillside, while chickens quietly go about their day in the yard.
“We are the second owner of this farm. It’s just under 10 acres, and we currently have three acres in cultivation, with plans to expand,” says Cari Donaldson. “New farmers don’t know what they don’t know, or what resources are available. UConn Extension has been really good at bridging that gap for us.”
Farming can be a challenging profession filled with joys, discomfort, and economic risk. The Donaldsons have tapped into a suite of UConn Extension programs to help them get established as farmers, including the Solid Ground Farmer Trainings, Vegetable Crops Integrated Pest Management, Put Local on Your Tray, as well as Taste of Mansfield.
“Cari has been a smart user of Extension resources and training,” says Jiff Martin, associate extension educator in sustainable food systems. “As much as we want to help her family’s farm business grow, her feedback also helps us grow and evolve our own programming so we can offer new farmers the types of help they really need. We’ve been especially interested in supporting Cari’s enthusiasm for selling to schools and have leveraged resources through our Put Local on Your Tray program to assist.”
Put Local on Your Tray helps school districts source, serve, and celebrate local food by incorporating Connecticut-grown ingredients into school lunch menus. In the 2019-2020 school year, more than 80 school districts will participate in Put Local On Your Tray.
“Stephanie Richard, the Mansfield schools’ food service director, gave us an entrance into the wholesale market,” Cari says. “It’s a weight off our minds being able to grow for the schools. I can’t say enough about UConn Extension’s Put Local on Your Tray Program, and Stephanie. People are always the most excited about the fact that we grow food for the schools.”
“As a food service director, I find that Put Local on Your Tray is a great asset for promotional and marketing materials,” says Richard. “Making arrangements with farmers, meetings, figuring out how much product we can take in and work with pulls time away from the marketing part. With Put Local on Your Tray, I am able to focus more time on building relationships with farmers and coaching my staff who work with the produce.”
Working with Richard also helped Cari Donaldson develop the language she needed to attract other wholesale buyers, including other schools that will begin purchasing from the farm in the fall.
“Put Local on Your Tray has information that schools need to alleviate their concerns about purchasing from local farms,” Donaldson says.
And Put Local on Your Tray isn’t the only program offered by Extension to help new farmers in Connecticut. Solid Ground Farmer Trainings, for example, are for farmers with less than ten years of farming experience. Small group workshops are offered in-person with experts in soils, production, farm finances, pesticide safety, irrigation, agriculture mechanics, and more. Fact sheets, guides, videos, and online tutorials on the program’s website are frequently used resources by farmers throughout the state.
Charlotte Ross, project coordinator for Solid Ground Farmer Trainings, owns and operates Sweet Acre Farm in Lebanon. Before serving as project coordinator, she participated in Extension’s beginning farmer trainings. Ross says, “We’ve learned a lot about new farmers through the Solid Ground Training Program. New farmers are as time-limited as anyone and are hungry for practical knowledge. Given the amount of information you can find online already, our training provides more than how-to instructions. They offer opportunities to have your questions answered by an expert, hands-on practice, and a chance to network with other new farmers.”
“You just want to farm. You don’t want to be a salesman, but that’s half of the job,” Ken Donaldson says. “UConn Extension helps with that. The networking and assistance in finding buyers is huge, and has been the most beneficial part of our involvement with Extension. We’re getting better at farming each year, and that’s a really cool thing.”
The Solid Ground Farmer Trainings are sponsored by the USDA-NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Award #2016-70017-25416.
Article by Stacey Stearns
The program is called the Environment Corps and focuses on using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills to address important environmental issues like climate adaptation, brownfields remediation, and stormwater management at the municipal level. Environment Corps combines the familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning and UConn Extension’s work with communities in a unique way that allows students to develop STEM skills and get “real world” experience as preparation for the work force, while communities receive help in responding to environmental mandates that they often lack the resources to address on their own.
“The entire team is excited and gratified that NSF has selected us for funding. This will allow us to expand and better coordinate our efforts, and create something that will hopefully be part of the University’s public engagement portfolio for a long time,” says Extension Educator Chet Arnold, principal investigator of the grant and the Director of UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR).
Arnold notes that the Environment Corps project is built on an extensive partnership at UConn. It includes faculty from four schools and colleges in five departments: Natural Resources and the Environment, Extension, Geography, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Educational Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, the project involves four university centers, all three environmental major programs, and the Office of the Provost.
The Environment Corps or “E-Corps” came out of a three-year pilot project originally funded by the UConn Provost’s Office in 2016. That project developed the Climate Corps, an undergraduate instructional effort focused on local, town-level impacts of, and responses to, climate change. Designed to draw students from the Environmental Studies, Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Engineering majors, the Climate Corps debuted in the fall of 2017. The program consists of a class in the fall with a strong focus on local challenges and issues, followed by a “practicum” spring semester during which students are formed into teams and matched with towns work on projects. Partnerships with the towns are built on the long-term relationships that have developed between local officials and Extension educators from CLEAR and the Connecticut Sea Grant program.
Climate Corps was a hit with both students and towns, and in 2018 spun off a second STEM offering, this one focusing on
brownfields (contaminated sites) redevelopment. The Brownfields Corps, taught by the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, debuted in the fall of 2018. With the NSF funding, there will now be a third “Corps,” the Stormwater Corps, which is under development and will help towns deal with the many requirements of the state’s newly strengthened general stormwater permit.
The NSF-funded project involves expansion and coordination of the three programs, but also has a major focus on studying the impact of the E-Corps approach on students, faculty, participating towns, and the UConn community. Faculty from the Neag School of Education will lead the research. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning will take the lead in working with university administrators and faculty to promote further expansion of the model.
The local, real-world focus of the E-Corps model is getting an enthusiastic response from students. One student wrote: “Climate Corps had a huge influence on me, and for a while I wasn’t super excited about the sorts of jobs I’d be qualified to do…but having this experience opened so many doors for me and exposed me to so many different things I could do. I’m really excited to start my new job because I’ve been able to combine a career with something I find super interesting.” Fall classes are filled to capacity for the Climate and Brownfields Corps.
“With two years of the Climate Corps and a year of the Brownfields Corps under our belts I think we can say that both the students and the communities are benefitting from this program,” says Sea Grant Extension Educator Juliana Barrett, a Climate Corps instructor. “As a Land and Sea Grant University UConn has a critical mission to engage the community, and the E-Corps project gives us a new, exciting model for doing that.”
It is Christmas in July for the greenhouse producers who grow poinsettias. In order to have plants that are blooming for December sales, greenhouses start the process early. Poinsettias require months in the greenhouse before they are ready to be purchased and taken home.
Leanne Pundt, one of our Extension educators was scouting the plants for whitefly immatures at one the Connecticut growers last week and took these photos.
GMO 2.0 Overview
By Quamyia Foye
Quamyia Foye is an undergraduate at UConn and attended GMO 2.0: Science, Society and the Future and wrote the following summary of the event, along with her perceptions.
Overview of Risks and Benefits of Genetically Engineered Crops
Dr. Paul Vincelli, extension professor and provost distinguished service professor from the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Kentucky, presented a presentation touching on the benefits and risks of genetically engineered crops. In the first part of Dr. Vincelli’s presentation, he discussed non-GMO breeding/ conventional breeding which is a less precise, controlled and more disruptive form of growing agronomic and horticultural crops. Since conventional breeding leans more to the traditional side some people prefer this method over genetic engineering. However, Dr. Vincelli made a very strong point, that when it comes to genetic change what matters is not how it is made but what it does. Genetically engineered crops, crops whose DNA has been modified using genetic engineering methods, are typically seen in a negative light due to it being ‘man-made’ even though there is no current scientific evidence that shows any negative effects. The greatest concern when it comes to genetically engineered crops is transgene flow. A transgene is a gene or genetic material that was genetically engineered from one organism to another. ‘The introduction of a transgene (called “transgenesis”) has the potential to change the phenotype of an organism (A. J. Clark 2011)”. Based off of this information it can be seen that when it comes to transgene flow an individual’s main fear and concern is that a different gene from completely different organisms can be passed along to an unrelated crop which is viewed as unnatural and unsafe by some people. However, that is not the case. Two examples of crops being genetically engineered and having positive benefits are aflatoxins and tomatoes. Aflatoxins in its natural state are one of the most potent carcinogens but due to gene splicing its carcinogenesis traits was reduced making it a safe substance and a disease resistant tomato was created with a single gene from a pepper. Just by simply modifying/inserting a gene these two crops were improved which in turn can be beneficial for farming and human consumption. At the end of this presentation, Dr. Vincelli stated that there is no umbrella GMO and that there are different applications for each type of plant. When it comes to genetically engineering crops it should be taken on a case by case basis therefore, nothing should be excluded since everything is unique in its own way.
GMO Plant Technologies
Dr. Yi Li, a professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at UConn CAHNR, discussed GMO plant technologies and its positive benefits. At the beginning of the presentation, he explained the process of transferring specific genes to crop plants. An example Dr. Li gave was how drought tolerant low yield corn plant was ‘combined’ with a drought sensitive high yield plant which created a drought tolerant high yield corn plant. This process first begins when plant p1, drought tolerant but low yield, drought gene is isolated and then precisely inserted into plant p2, which is drought sensitive but high yield which then produced the drought tolerant and high seed yield corn variety. Dr. Li then goes on to discuss how GMO plants are not monsters and that transgenic plants can occur naturally. For example, in the genome of a cultivated sweet potato, there is Agrobacterium T-DNAs with expressed genes. Since 1997 we have been consuming GMOs, and since then, there has been an increase in the production of genetically modified soybeans, cotton, and corn. Nearly 100 percent of these crops planted in the US are GMOs and up to 80 percent of packaged foods contain GMO ingredients. When some individuals see such high percentages, they often question what is being modified in the food that they are consuming. Typically, the mass majority of food that is modified has beneficial properties. For example, genetically modified apples have a longer time span of freshness. Golden rice is modified to prevent blindness, cotton is modified to resist certain insects, and there are genetically modified papayas that are virus resistant. There are also studies that show and prove that planting Bt corn, a type of transgenic corn that “produce the insecticidal proteins that occur naturally in Bt” (Bacillus thuringiensis), reduces the use of insecticide. Even with there being scientific proof that there are beneficial properties in genetically modified organisms some individuals will still try to discredit it and state that since it is man made there is bound to negative side effects. However, what many people do not understand is that GMO and traditional methods of crop production are fundamentally the same. Both traditional and GMO breeding methods are involved in gene transfer. The only difference is that with traditional breeding the first plant, which has the desired gene, and second plant create a new plant type that has a combination of both of the plant genes which includes the specific desired gene. When it comes to GMO breeding methods only the desired gene from the selected plant is inserted into the second plant. This results in a new plant species that has an almost identical genetic makeup of the second plant except it has the specific desired gene now apart of its DNA. Overall, there are three major plant breeding technologies which are, gene editing, traditional breeding, and genetically modified organisms. When it comes to public acceptance and effectiveness GMO is the most effective yet least accepted, gene editing is in the middle with both effectiveness and acceptance and traditional breeding is the least effective yet the most accepted. Based off of these results it can be seen that when it comes down to what is actually beneficial the public tend to lean towards their belief than the actual veracity. We need to use all possible tools to improve crop yield in order to feed the current population because based on the data presented it shows that as the world population increases the area which crops are grown decreases which can cause significant problems pertaining to the demand of food and the population.
GMOs and Big Agriculture in the US
Gerry Berkowitz, a professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, at the University of Connecticut CAHNR program presented both his work and that of Robert C Bird, professor of Business Law and Eversource Energy Chair Business Ethics, at the UConn school of business. Dr. Berkowitz touched upon the effect of GMO’s on agriculture and how we need to question what is being presented to us. He stated that we need to be aware that what we consider the ‘truth’ is based on the best evidence available, but that is not always, or often not, the final story. When it comes to certain issues, the public’s perception will usually conflate, which is to combine several issues into one. For example, there was a case where a groundkeeper sued Monsanto after he developed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after using Roundup various times throughout the day at extended periods. Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is a known carcinogen which Monsanto, its manufacturer, failed to provide warning and appropriate information regarding the potential danger of the product. The judge, in this case, allowed evidence from internal emails and experts warnings, as well as a 2015 WHO-IARC classification of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The groundkeeper went on to win the lawsuit. When it came down to it, there was not even solid scientific evidence that Roundup is actually carcinogenic. As mentioned previously, in 2015 the WHO-IARC stated that Roundup was ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. The US EPA concluded that Roundup was ‘not likely to be carcinogenic’. Since there is no solid conclusive evidence the judge based his decision on Monsanto’s failure to provide information on the possible carcinogen. Due to the public perception of companies such as Monsanto and the misconstruing of what the case was about, after and during the case there was a lot of backlash concerning Monsanto GMOs, and its agrichemicals when in actuality this case did not pertain to GMOs or the toxicity of agrichemicals. Mr. Berkowitz also brought up the controversial topic of GMO labeling. He asked do consumers have a right to know where they are spending their money towards food and to link this to their value system? In simpler terms, do individuals have the right to know exactly what is in their food and should they be able to associate this with their beliefs and or the worth of the food? In the US, nearly 80 percent of consumers prefer to have GMO labeling laws, yet many companies oppose it. One viewpoint was that if GMO labeling did happen there would be an increase in non-GMO food prices. Mr. Berkowitz disagrees. Since we already have certified organic labeling, he believes that the real reason is that if products with GMO were labeled, there would be a reduction in purchases. Currently, when it comes to GMO labeling, Congress has passed national labeling law preempting state standards which were directed by the USDA to establish a labeling standard which can vary from an actual label to a QR scan.
My perception of the event
In conclusion, this event exhibited various perceptions and methods of GMO and overall did a splendid job. All the panelists were passionate about what they were discussing and were able to explain their topic in a clear and concise manner. I also enjoyed the crowd’s participation and engagement with the panelists and how they did not stray from asking tough questions. For example, one participant asked in terms of labeling would they prefer if a product simply stated it was genetically engineered or it stated which type of genetic engineering was done. Dr. Vincelli said he was in favor of labeling genetically engineered foods for social reasons and not scientific. He stated that he really did not have a good answer to completely explain his reasoning and also commented that he would not be in favor of the product stating what type of genetic engineering was used because it would be too complicated for individuals. Dr. Berkowitz explained that he supports labeling simply because the public supports labeling however he does not believe that it should be for genetic engineering types because people have problems with the technology and not the type of engineering. Dr. Li then stated that he prefers to eat GMOs than conventional produce, so he supports both types of labeling. This type of engagement provided extra insight into GMOs and the panelist viewpoints as well as gave the audience time to process new information and be able to process and put everything together. Ultimately, this event was a great experience and provided much insight into GMOs and how people perceive them.
For more information visit https://gmo.uconn.edu/